Statue near Pirbright village hall
The Basingstoke Canal divides the communities of Pirbright
Pirbright is located in Surrey
Location within Surrey
Area19.01 km2 (7.34 sq mi)
Population3,691 (Civil Parish 2011)[1]
• Density194/km2 (500/sq mi)
OS grid referenceSU950550
Civil parish
Shire county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townWoking
Postcode districtGU24
Dialling code01483
AmbulanceSouth East Coast
UK Parliament
List of places
51°17′10″N 0°38′20″W / 51.286°N 0.639°W / 51.286; -0.639

Pirbright (/ˈpɜːrbrt/) is a village in Surrey, England. Pirbright is in the borough of Guildford and has a civil parish council covering the traditional boundaries of the area. Pirbright contains one buffered sub-locality, Stanford Common near the nation's farm animal disease research institute. The village's grade II* listed medieval church has a large Boulder grave for explorer Henry Morton Stanley. The nearby Hodge Brook is marked as Congo Stream, between Ruwenzori and Stanley Hills.


Most of the parish is lightly or densely wooded, such as at Stamford Common.

Pirbright has two communities: army training barracks and designated homes are north of a London main axis (south-west) railway and the slightly dispersed village is south. The village is almost entirely surrounded by heathland, much of it owned by the Ministry of Defence and used by the Army Training Centre Pirbright.[3][4] The south and south-east of the parish is mostly woodland and has three small farms. The south-west of the parish has a large military training area, Pirbright Common. Near to the church are several features due to Stanley's association with the village: Hodge Brook is equally marked as Congo Stream, between Ruwenzori Hill and Stanley Hill. Mazamboni Farm is next to Aruwimi Wood.



Its name had three medieval variants (each involving the letter 'f' where there is currently a 'b').[5] It came from Anglo-Saxon (Old English) Pirige-fyrhþ = "sparse woodland where peartrees grow".

Medieval and Tudor periods

The manor of Pirbright does not seem to occur earlier than the 13th century, when it was reported to be held of the honour of Clare by Peter de Pirbright. John Trenchard died seised of it (holding) under the Earl of Gloucester in 1301–2.[5] In this time it had a medieval deer park, disparked under Richard II. During the reign of Henry VIII the manor changed hands several times: it formed part of the marriage portion of Queen Katharine of Aragon and was successively in the possession of Sir Thomas Boleyn and Sir William Fitz William. Finally it was granted to Sir Anthony Browne, afterwards Viscount Montagu, with whose family it remained until the middle of the next century.

18th century and afterwards

The locality saw development in the form of brick labourers' cottages with a few Georgian large homes, some with modest estates of land. Of the last sort, Vice-Admiral the Hon. John "Foulweather Jack" Byron, explorer, grandfather of George Gordon Byron, 6th Lord Byron (usually known as 'the poet, Lord Byron') planted in the late 18th century an avenue of Scotch pines to the foot of a tower hill, Crown Prince Hill, in the woods, still called Admiral's Walk or 'road', which extends for 1 mile (1.6 km), half within the Danger Area owned by the Ministry of Defence of Pirbright Common.[5]

Heatherside was the early 20th century home of F. C. Selous, the African big-game hunter, and contained a "remarkable collection of hunting spoils and native African curiosities."[5]

Pirbright's traditional churchyard contains the large block of granite, 11-feet high, marking the grave of British Empire soldier and explorer Henry Morton Stanley, who died in London aged 63. This is partly inscribed with the words "Henry Morton Stanley Bula Matari 1841–1904 Africa". Bula Matari was another of his names and translates as "Breaker of Rocks" or "Breakstones" in Kongo.[6]

A large fire occurred in the area in April 2022.

Pirbright Institute

The Pirbright Institute is a research establishment, based at Pirbright, that investigates diseases in farm animals. (A second site at Compton, Berkshire was closed in 2016 with research being transferred to the Pirbright site.) It is one of eight UK research institutes supported by the UK's Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). The Pirbright site includes international reference laboratories for the diagnosis of livestock diseases exotic to the UK, including the World Reference Laboratory for foot and mouth disease. The site also conducts research on viruses including foot and mouth disease and bluetongue virus.

On Saturday 4 August 2007 it was announced that the strain of foot-and-mouth disease detected in cattle three miles (5 km) away was similar to that in use at the Pirbright site. Professor Brian Spratt's report found that more likely than not the strain of the virus understandably came from the Merial vaccine production facility or the Pirbright Institute laboratory: whose shared "effluent pipes [leading to final small treatment plant were] not contained, as they should be as part of Category 4 containment at Pirbright."[7] This poor condition of pipes and incursion of trees in the site has since been rectified and significant investment (over £170 million) is taking place at Pirbright to provide new laboratory and animal facilities.


There are three schools in Pirbright, including two on School Lane, and a small all-through school, Knowl Hill School, for children with dyslexia which provides education for around fifty pupils. The largest school is the centrally located Pirbright Village Primary School, which educates children from the age of 4 to 11.

Youth outreach

The Normandy Youth Centre serves the wider area by sponsoring community-based programmes targeting youth in the area for the purpose of increasing exposure to educational opportunities and building a stronger community.[8]


St Michael and All Angels' Church

Church of St Michael and All Angels

See also: List of places of worship in Guildford (borough)

The small church stands by Church Cottage in the meadows directly west of the village centre. It is built of brick dressings to a galleted 'heathstone' walls to its Nave, with a galleted heathstone tower to west and chancel to east. Plain tiled roof with lead spike over tower. Box nave with square tower to west, gabled porch to south, aisle to north, chancel to east with vestry to north and organ bay to south.[9]

Moated 'manor house' which held the manorial courts

The manorial courthouse was renamed in the 19th century[5] and has a moat, and a great proportion of the building was built in the 16th century, is timber-framed however the building is partially clad in red and blue brick and in brown and red brick on its non-timber framed cross wing.[10]


Cricket ground with woodland background

Cricket has been played on the village green since 1780.[11] The principal cricket club is Pirbright Cricket Club which has a 1st XI, and a Sunday team.

Pirbright is the home of Pirbright Tennis Club which was formed in 1976. Initially playing in the Burrow Hill part of the village, the club soon moved to its ground on School Lane. Pirbright Tennis Club has over 300 members and five adult teams;[12] the courts are also used by students from the local schools.

Famous residents

Demography and housing

2011 Census Homes
Output area Detached Semi-detached Terraced Flats and apartments Caravans/temporary/mobile homes Shared between households[1]
(Civil Parish) 360 449 253 37 2 0

The average level of accommodation in the region composed of detached houses was 28%; the average that was apartments was 22.6%.

2011 Census Key Statistics
Output area Population Households % Owned outright % Owned with a loan Hectares[1]
(Civil Parish) 3,691 1,101 23.9% 24.5% 1,901[1]

The proportion of households in the civil parish who owned their home outright compares to the regional average of 35.1%. The proportion who owned their home with a loan compares to the regional average of 32.5%. The remaining % is made up of rented dwellings (plus a negligible % of households living rent-free).


Pirbright is twinned with :

Further reading


  1. ^ a b c d Key Statistics; Quick Statistics: Population Density United Kingdom Census 2011 Office for National Statistics Retrieved 21 November 2013
  2. ^ "Pirbright Parish Council - Home". Parish-council.com. Retrieved 28 February 2019.
  3. ^ "Pirbright Parish Council". 12 September 2007. Archived from the original on 12 September 2007. Retrieved 28 February 2019.
  4. ^ "Church of England parish map. Accessed 23 April 2012". Achurchnearyou.com. Retrieved 28 February 2019.
  5. ^ a b c d e H.E. Malden, ed. (1911). "Parishes: Pirbright". A History of the County of Surrey: Volume 3. Institute of Historical Research. Retrieved 24 November 2013.
  6. ^ Historic England. "Stanley Memorial, 60 yards east of Church of St Michael and All Angels (Grade II) (1029623)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 24 November 2013.
  7. ^ Independent Review of the safety of UK facilities handling foot and mouth disease virus Archived 27 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine Professor Brian Spratt, August 2007
  8. ^ "Award for Mother Who Transformed Her Village". Surrey Live. 2 July 2013 [18 October 2010]. Retrieved 24 January 2023.
  9. ^ Historic England. "Church of St Michael and All Angels (Grade II*) (1377714)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 24 January 2023.
  10. ^ Historic England. "The Manor House (Grade II) (1188635)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 24 November 2013.
  11. ^ "Pirbright cricket club". Pirbright.play-cricet.com. Retrieved 28 February 2019.
  12. ^ "Pirbright Tennis Club". Clubspark.lta.org.uk. Retrieved 28 February 2019.
  13. ^ Julia Douëtil Welcome to St Michael and All Angels Church, Pirbright Archived 6 October 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ 'BRANSON, Rt Hon. Sir George Arthur Harwin' in Who Was Who 1951–1960 (London: A. & C. Black, 1984 reprint, ISBN 0-7136-2598-8)